So far, we’ve talked about Visionaries, Operators, and Processors. Each one brings unique strengths and challenges to the table. But getting all three to work together, show up in their strength, and mitigate the impact of their weaknesses is like herding cats. Together, they form an unstable triad that is ripe for confusion and conflict.
In terms of basic wiring, these types don’t think in terms of “we.” And when stressed, each one is more likely to fall back into negative team-destroying patterns.
Fortunately, there is a fourth leadership style that brings Visionaries, Operators, and Processors together, and we call it the Synergist. Synergists attention gravitates to the “who” of every situation. They are master builders of people, though we rarely see them leading from the frontlines.
To sustain the innovation, execution, and scalability that a V-O-P team can create, we need a way to consistently overcome the natural barriers between styles. Synergists do this through empathy and enterprise focus.
They are masters at seeing various viewpoints simultaneously and coordinating them to achieve the best results for the entire organization. In today’s world (particularly the semi-isolated environment we are all living in due to COVID-19), we need Synergist leaders who can bring everyone’s strengths to the table for the best of all stakeholders.
Before we get started, if you don’t already know your style, I encourage you to take the free Leadership styles quiz.
Getting to know the Synergist
What would a world without Synergists look like? Surprisingly, it would look a lot like the world we live in today, just worse.
Unlike Visionaries, Operators, and Processors, natural Synergists are very rare. Synergistic leadership is typically a learned style. Fortunately, it is the easiest style to learn, and growing your Synergist skillset doesn’t detract from your Visionaries, Operators, or Processor capabilities at all. Instead, it enhances them as you are able to make your strengths more accessible to the other types.
When you look at many of the conflicts and shortcomings we are experiencing in the world today, much of it can be traced back to the lack of Synergistic leadership.
Synergists are first and foremost driven to harmonize and help. I’m sure you can see why we need more Synergist leaders. The are the style most likely to do what they believe is right for the entire business, organization, or team and all its stakeholders, regardless of their personal desires.
They are highly people-oriented, and their high EQ and self-awareness make them excellent leaders and communicators.
They excel at building teams that work together effectively. Synergist leaders can take a vantage point above the fray and see the movements and decisions necessary to bring alignment and harmony. This is especially true of the V-P relationship. Synergists share an affinity for vision and the long-term with Visionaries. They also relate well to Processors in their desire for broad-scale alignment and coordination. They often serve the critical role of translating and interpreting for the different styles to find points of alignment that are otherwise lost in language, bias, and vantage point.
You will frequently find Synergists in HR, training, and leadership positions, especially in companies with a strong focus on culture and employee engagement. The excels at persuading and motivating others. And, because their motivations are genuinely altruistic, their persuasions rarely come across as manipulative or self-serving.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the strengths of a Synergist also form their primary challenges.
Like those of the Processors, their strengths are much more useful as the size of the organization grows. A strong Synergist would struggle in a new startup where the organization’s survival correlates more closely with action than harmony.
They can naively assume that others share that same enterprise commitment and become disenfranchised when others act selfishly.
The fact that they aren’t productivity junkies or limelight enthusiasts can cause them to have an actual (or more typically perceived) lethargy. “What do you actually do here?” This is particularly problematic for their relationships with Operators whose primary purpose and value in the organization is to get done what they “do here.”
Because they are so focused on everyone’s good, they can get stuck pursuing consensus within a team, sacrificing organizational effectiveness for the sake of harmony (which in an underperforming organization is often a false sense of harmony). Synergists can get frustrated when they feel others are putting too much attention on the bottom line or other measurable results. Conversely, that can frustrate others when they put people over production and avoid hard conversations or protect under-performers.
They can also lose visibility in an organization. They are slow to blow there own horn and quick to build up others. It’s not uncommon for a Synergist’s true value to never be fully realized until they are gone. This certainly limits their career path, and in the long run, it is quite damaging to the team as a whole.
With a Synergist quietly cleaning up messes behind the scenes, the Visionaries, Operators, and Processors make not be as quick to recognize and remedy their own shortcomings.
The goal then for the Synergist is to strike that balance between grace and accountability.
Becoming a brilliant Synergist leader is about doing just that. There are three areas of focus for a Synergist who is looking to become a better leader and increase her effectiveness within a team.
Focus on organizational goals
What great Synergists do better than anyone else is to provide focus, clarity, and alignment around organization-wide goals. These goals provide the necessary checks and balances for their natural people orientation.
As a Synergist, you need to use the organization’s goals as a litmus test for your actions.
- If you help this person in that way, does it move the organization closer to accomplishing its goals, or is there a better way?
- Are you avoiding an issue because of grace (they just messed up and have already learned their lesson) or because of fear (you don’t want to threaten the harmony)?
- Are the right people in the right seats to get the job done? You can see this more clearly than anyone. Don’t shy away from having difficult conversations to make sure the right people are in the right seats for the good of the entire organization.
Make sure your work and day are oriented around making tangible progress toward the organization’s goals. This focus on personal productivity enhances your enterprise ability by building a bridge to others, particularly the Operators.
Push for better, not easier
I use this principle a lot when coaching Synergists. When in a management position, they especially want each of their team members to succeed so they can end up placing the happiness of others ahead of the productivity of the team. Synergist managers do this by putting more on their plate than they should, unnecessarily subsidizing a team member’s underperformance. Much to your dismay, this approach encourages non-performance and ends up with you shouldering more and more of the work.
To make matters worse, once in a leadership setting, this focus on “making things easier” for your team can cause you to lobby for them and come across as siloed, weak, or lazy to other leaders.
Instead of pushing for easy, align productivity and happiness by focusing on making their work better and more productive. Creating additional products through highly engaged employees is a win for everyone, including you as a Synergist. You’ll even find that other leaders in the organization will come to you and ask for help creating the same success in their departments.
Learn to love action and results
To be a genuinely great Synergist leader, you have to produce great results. Synergist leaders who can overcome the fear of damaging their relationships with others and give critical feedback, accountability, and ultimatums will ultimately find it gloriously liberating.
Your best team members will thrive and grow under positive pressure. Your worst team members will find a better fit elsewhere. And you will no longer be buried under the load of picking up after everyone around you.
Your capacity to understand and empathize with others will give you the uncanny ability to meet them where they are and unlock their potential. Your ability to encourage and exhort will motivate your team even in the midst of incredibly difficult and challenging circumstances.
Learning to love action will allow you to test your beliefs in the real world with real data, keeping what works, and tossing what doesn’t. You’ll also enjoy greater recognition for your work and see a significant propagation of your ideas and beliefs throughout the organization.
As your ideas spread, your impact will expand well beyond your personal interactions to make a lasting and meaningful impact in hundreds and thousands of others’ lives. As our society continues to come to grips with the changing dynamics of the internet age and management of knowledge workers, the skills of the Synergist who can drive results through broad-scale cooperation and engagement will be in high demand!
If you’d like to continue to develop your Synergist leadership gifting, I encourage you to take our online course How to be an Exceptional Synergist Leader.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and can’t wait to see you become a brilliant synergist leader.